We were initially asked to investigate a single excavator fire, but on arrival our investigator was presented with two additional fires. The reason for hiring an Australian company to investigate a fire in Africa was that three separate investigations into a previous excavator fire had failed to come to a conclusion about cause. Our company had previously assisted the same mining firm with several equipment fires in Australia.
After spending two days onsite, the original incident (now six months old) was added to the list of fires to be examined. The list now compromised three excavators and one loader with a capital loss in excess of $30 million USD, as well as loss of excavator production for the mine for up to 12 months, the time it takes to obtain a new machine.
The Investigation Takes a Turn
Once onsite, the political situation became an interesting sideline. Union protests, external and internal threats to machinery and operations, and corruption within the mine itself affected the conduct of the investigation.
Final conclusions included three of the excavator fires where activities involving diesel fuel theft from the machines led directly to the fires. Whilst the loader fire remained undetermined, the cause of a small fire on a fourth excavator was identified and modifications were completed to prevent a recurrence.